NEW YORK – Major League Soccer Friday announced a partnership with the United States Youth Soccer Association to collaborate on initiatives that support and engage individual soccer players, as well as soccer communities, throughout the United States.

The partnership will support enhancements in player identification and monitoring, coaching and scouting education, competition and fan engagement throughout the USYS community that includes more than three million boys and girls soccer players across 55 state associations. The partnership will create a pathway for boys and girls to be seen and scouted, regardless of location or financial resources, according to an MLS press release.

“We are very proud that USYS and its 55-member states associations have decided to make MLS their league of choice,” MLS senior director of player development Gordon Bengston said in a partnership. “The state associations are crucial partners in creating more meaningful connections to the professional levels while supporting the overall growth of the game. This is particularly important in communities that have not historically had access to elite development environments or professional pathways. This is a first step towards our goal of making the size and diversity of our country, our biggest strength.”

The press release also said that the partnership will help build on the foundation provided by MLS’ recent announcement of the new elite youth development platform.

Players who excel in high school programs, on club teams or in local soccer leagues throughout the country will be recommended for the regional competition platform.

MLS will collaborate with the technical leadership of all 55 State Associations as well as the USYS National Office to develop best practices in talent identification in each region. As part of the commitment to enable access and remove barriers for talented players to reach their highest potential, MLS will absorb all expenses for players attending and participating in the regional competitions in select age levels. Eliminating financial barriers for young players throughout the country is critical to ensure talented players can be seen and scouted during their formative years.

“This is not a short-term vision, but rather one in which we realize the opportunity to truly connect the whole system of soccer in our country,” US Youth Soccer CEO Skip Gilbert said in a statement. “For too long the professional and youth systems have been working relatively independent of each other and with this MLS partnership, we start down the path of true collaboration. This will not only expand resources to grow the game at the grassroots level, but also reveal to players and families that there is a clear pathway to any level of soccer they want to achieve.”